As I travel the country, I am often asked what keeps me up at night. Oh, there are plenty of complex problems that we face as an Association, but this is easy for me to answer. Tennis-teaching professionals are getting older, and we need young, exciting professionals to reinvigorate our sport.
I sleep a little easier, though, knowing that we are on the right path to tackling these issues.
It is no secret that the average age of our members and of tennis-teaching professionals in general is 50 years old. Nor is it a secret that we have a shortage of qualified tennis-teaching professionals that can deliver tennis in such a way that will keep people engaged and make tennis the “sport of their lifetime.” We get calls all the time from club managers who cannot find teaching professionals with the skillset to fill the role of director of tennis. We also hear from directors that have difficulty securing the services of staff professionals that are eager to learn, show good customer service and want to make teaching tennis their profession.
To those managers and directors, rest assured, and keep your doors open. Help is on the way.
We can take a lesson from Professional Golf Management programs. Roughly 1,750 students are enrolled in 18 PGM programs across the country, with almost 450 aspiring professionals joining the ranks as new graduates every year. The success of these programs and their impact in the golf world cannot be denied.
Professional Tennis Management programs tout similar success. Nationwide, PTM programs have a nearly 100% job placement rate! These graduates enter the industry full of energy and expertise, and if they can provide a positive experience, their players will become “lifers.”
Such an outstanding job placement rate is a testament to the success of the programs and their graduates and of the demand for these graduates in the marketplace. Credit the USTA-U, under the direction of Scott Schultz, for encouraging more colleges and universities to add PTM to their academic offerings. There are now 11 PTM programs across the country, with more on the horizon. Still, PTM programs today only have 150 students enrolled.
The key, then, is making sure these classes are full of excited tennis students. To do this, I have embarked on a journey in the first quarter of 2020 to seven different state high school tennis coaches association conventions (many of which are being held in conjunction with USPTA division conferences) to raise awareness of PTM programs and the incredible career potential they can provide.
But this cannot be done alone. As with nearly everything we do as an Association, we are relying on our members, particularly high school coaches, to raise awareness and encourage players to consider a career in tennis. If each coach identifies one player from their team – just one – that is passionate about tennis, wants to work with people and be a leader in their community, it would have a HUGE impact on the future of our sport. It doesn’t even have to be the best player on the team!
Once they graduate from a PTM school, these young professionals are better trained and more educated than the pros before them. They will be USPTA-certified and prepared to take on the industry from the ground up. That’s when we can really make a difference in their careers. It will be up to us to give them the competencies and opportunities to explore the various career paths our sport has to offer: a high school or college coach, a director of tennis or a club general manager, running a parks and recreation department, work for a manufacturer or even a USTA section or district office.
The possibilities are endless; we just need to give these future professionals a nudge in the right direction.
To me, there is no more vital mission than to create a pipeline of enthusiastic, polished professionals that will leave their mark on our sport. Join me on this mission. Recruit the best and the brightest to join our ranks so I can sleep a bit better at night knowing that our great game will be in better hands in the years to come. If you are interested in PTM, visit www.uspta.com/ptm